Monthly Archives: November 2011

Edmund Burke and Political Reform

Edmund Burke is the political thinker most central to shaping my own political views.  Regarded as the founder of modern conservatism, Burke was an odd mixture of idealistic philosopher and practical politician.  Although he presents his ideas in luminous prose, he has often been caricatured as a mere reactionary.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Burke realized that societies change all the time, just as individuals change as they proceed through life.  How the change occurred in the political realm was to Burke of the greatest moment.

Rather than a reactionary, Burke was actually a reformer, fighting against abuses in his time, for example the penal laws which treated Irish Catholics as helots in their own land, and English Catholics as foreigners in theirs’.  When the colonists in America carried on a decade long struggle against the colonial policies of the government of George III before rising in revolt, Burke ever spoke on their behalf in a hostile Parliament, and defended his stance before a hostile electorate.  He prosecuted the first British Governor General of India, Warren Hastings, for crimes committed against the native population.

One of the things that has always struck me about Burke is his consistency, whether defending the rights of Irish and English Catholics, of the American colonists, of the Indians under British rule or attacking the tyranny of the French revolutionaries.  He was always against arbitrary power and held that government could not simply uproot societies. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The new Roman Missal is a “net plus”…

 

With the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal just around the corner, Crisis magazine reprinted its 2000 article “Worship Gone Awry.”  Its author, Maureen Mullarkey, advanced some excellent arguments about some problems with the Ordinary Form of the Mass (OF), many of which that only became increasingly obvious as the decades of the 1970’s, 80’s, and ’90s unfolded.

But, does that mean the OF is as bad as Ms. Mullarkey indicates?  More importantly, should the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (EF) be made more readily available, as Ms. Mullarkey seems to be implying?

On both counts, The Motley Monk thinks the answer is a resounding “No” if only because Joseph Jungmann’s concept of the “developmental nature of the liturgy” cannot be so easily dismissed.  As the Lutheran theologian, Jaroslav Pelikan, noted one generation ago: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead.  Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

History teaches that what is now the EF developed out of multiple strands constituting a “tradition” of worship, introducing “reforms” to that tradition.  In contemporary language, to make that tradition meaningful—daresay I, “relevant”—in a new era.

The development of medieval Masses and, finally, of the Tridentine Mass also represents a reflection on the part of pastors and theologians in terms of what was not working right in the Mass.  While it is true that the patristic Mass in the West resembled more of  the OF than the EF, great Church Fathers like Augustine inherited a form of the Mass from an earlier time (St. Cyprian of Carthage) in which sacramental theology, especially in terms of the concept of mystery, was not as developed as it was by Augustine’s time.  In this way, Augustine and other Church Fathers from the 5th century onward provided the sources for a later medieval rethinking of liturgy.  So, it’s not the form of the Mass that, say, an Augustine said, that indicates what he really thought, but the deeper sacramental theology in his writings which then influences later medieval developments.  In that sense medieval/Tridentine liturgy was a correction and, perhaps arguably at the time, an improvement over the patristic liturgies.

The same is true of the OF.  It also developed out of a very longstanding tradition of worship, introducing its own “reforms” that hearkened back to the pre-patristic era, “leapfrogging” backwards over the EF’s reforms of the patristic era’s form of authentic worship.

That said, in its intent and design OF may very well have erred in the direction of allowing worship to be made so meaningful—daresay I, “relevant”—that it becomes banal.  And, there certainly is much to support that assertion.  But, that is to overlook the fact that Ms. Mullarkey has emphasized only one side of that history by seizing, as she has, upon post-Vatican II excesses.  That does not mean, ipso facto, that the OF is errant.  After all, the same observation can be made about the EF.  Its attention to the details of historical artifacts—the stuff of maniples, burses, Gothic vestments, birettas, precious metals—can err in the direction of emphasizing what was relevant in previous generations so that that it errs in the direction of being irrelevant in this generation.

There are some real problems with the OF Ms. Mullarkey didn’t mention in her article, but likely would agree with.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • The OF can be celebrated in a prayerful and dignified way.  But, “ad populum” Mass can be problematic in that the celebrant inevitably is reduced to the role of “Entertainer-in-Chief,” even if he keeps his eyes focused upon the altar and not upon the congregation.  Like it or not, the OF encourages people in the congregation to vote implicitly concerning how they “feel” about a particular celebrant’s “style.”  Not only does that verge on Donatism, but it also focuses worship on the person of the ordained minister not the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ through whom God is authentically worshipped.
  • The OF totally and irrevocably erases the “apophatic elements” that are present—even if they are over-emphasized—in the EF.  “Tossing out the baby with the bathwater” may represent a very great loss, one that is known only in retrospect.  After all, authentic worship in any form should “raise up” the congregation’s spiritual sensibilities to the ineffable, not drag them down into the banal.  Clowns, puppets, and vestal virgins prancing around bearing incense buckets, and priests bedecked in vestments decorated with disco-glitter only encourage the latter.
  • In the OF, there is an over emphasis upon Word.  In reality, there are four readings each Sunday if the Responsorial Psalm is counted.  In many instances, the Epistle also has absolutely no connection to the first reading, the gospel, and the “bridge” of the psalm.  And that’s to say nothing about the fact that the celebrant’s prayers are entirely disconnected from the “theme” presented in the readings.  For a sacramental ritual that is supposed to reflect the “best” in that its principles dignify worship of God, this error alone seems egregious.
  • The OF appeals to children and adults who need to be kept busy and entertained because they are easily bored.   However, those who designed the OF appear not to have know or did not realize that the threshold for boredom lowers as people get accustomed to the little gestures and words that they perform, so that even the participation in the Mass signalled in the Missal inevitably becomes boring.  The OF has fallen into the trap of trying to ward off boredom throughout the Mass by getting the congregation “involved.”   But, even that becomes “boring” and can only be reversed if there is continuous change in the liturgy.  So, liturgists keep inventing new gimmicks and tricks for people to perform and remain actively engaged during the Holy Mass.  Even that term, “Holy Mass,” seems somehow unrelated to the OF.

  • The EF requires mental concentration if one’s worship to get absorbed in it in a way that makes what one does a form of engaged participation.  This is not singing.  Nor is it gesturing.  It is being actively engaged with one’s mind (and hopefully, too, one’s heart).  In contrast, participation in the OF has come to mean “everybody does everything.”  And even where that is not yet the case, there is a built in inevitability of people thinking that they are being excluded if there is something the priest does that they can’t do.  This may be the most damning criticism of the OF: it breeds a form of egalitarianism that has very little, if nothing to do with Roman Catholic hierarchalism and everything to do with post-Enlightenment individualism.

 

More likely than not, both the EF and OF err in the direction of crafting idols out of their definitions of “relevance” so that authentic worship today becomes an more of an afterthought rather than a guiding principle.

For what it’s worth, the new translation of the Roman Missal, celebrated/prayed/said (whatever word is appropriate these days) will go a long way in correcting the excesses in terms of relevance.

 

Let the discussion begin…

 

To read Maureen Mullarkey’s article in Crisis, click on the following link:
http://www.printfriendly.com/print/v2?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crisismagazine.com%2F2011%2Fworship-gone-awry-2

Are Primary Voters Superficial?

Rachel Masden has a column up lamenting how Rick Perry’s gaffe in last week’s debate demonstrates our obsessiveness with image over subtance:

As in real life, politicians, voters and the media all get caught up with entertaining but petty nonsense. Case in point: Rick Perry stuck his cowboy boot in his mouth during a recent debate performance, unable to recall one of the three agencies of government he’d euthanize if he were to become president. Turns out it was the Department of Energy — which for a Texas governor to forget about would be a bit like the prime minister of Great Britain forgetting about Buckingham Palace. OK, funny — but really, so what?

For at least 24 hours, the mishap represented arguably the single most globally widespread American news item. I even saw it broadcast and translated on French television in Paris. This is the media and political culture of today — all about stagecraft, showmanship and ratings.

As a political strategist, let me tell you a little secret: Debates are easy to fake. All you need to succeed is a good policy-prep team, a competent spin doctor to distill that policy material down to snappy bite-sized talking points, and the memory and delivery capabilities of a C-list Hollywood actor. Perry just didn’t remember his lines. That’s all.

But what about the other guys who lucked out and did remember all their lines this time? Isn’t it the job of media moderators to recognize boilerplate spin and slice through it on the fly? There’s one reliable way to do this, but it’s rarely seen: In response to a candidate’s prepared take, a media moderator need ask only one question: “What precise action in your background or experience illustrates this principle?” In other words, when a candidate says that he would do something, what has he previously done in his career to demonstrate that value through tangible action? Do you know who any of these candidates really is beyond what he or she claims to be? If not, then thank the style-over-substance media.

The column is timely because I’ve been having some second thoughts about the primary process. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

China on the Brink of Bankruptcy

China has long been held up as an economic model by some people on the Left in this country.  For example, go here to read a 2009 piece by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in which he celebrates the virtues of the “reasonably enlightened” rulers of China while bashing Republican opposition to Obama.  Knowing a bit about Chinese history, and quite a bit about Communist regimes of various stripes, I have been skeptical.  I have doubted whether anyone could trust the economic statistics put out by the Chinese government and accepted as Gospel by gullible Westerners.  Well, now the curtain has been lifted for a peek behind the scenes of the Chinese economy.

China’s economy has a reputation for being strong and prosperous, but according to a well-known Chinese television personality the country’s Gross Domestic Product is going in reverse.

Larry Lang, chair professor of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a lecture that he didn’t think was being recorded that the Chinese regime is in a serious economic crisis—on the brink of bankruptcy. In his memorable formulation: every province in China is Greece.

The restrictions Lang placed on the Oct. 22 speech in Shenyang City, in northern China’s Liaoning Province, included no audio or video recording, and no media. He can be heard saying that people should not post his speech online, or “everyone will look bad,” in the audio that is now on Youtube.

In the unusual, closed-door lecture, Lang gave a frank analysis of the Chinese economy and the censorship that is placed on intellectuals and public figures. “What I’m about to say is all true. But under this system, we are not allowed to speak the truth,” he said.

Despite Lang’s polished appearance on his high-profile TV shows, he said: “Don’t think that we are living in a peaceful time now. Actually the media cannot report anything at all. Those of us who do TV shows are so miserable and frustrated, because we cannot do any programs. As long as something is related to the government, we cannot report about it.”

He said that the regime doesn’t listen to experts, and that Party officials are insufferably arrogant. “If you don’t agree with him, he thinks you are against him,” he said.

Lang’s assessment that the regime is bankrupt was based on five conjectures.

Firstly, that the regime’s debt sits at about 36 trillion yuan (US$5.68 trillion). This calculation is arrived at by adding up Chinese local government debt (between 16 trillion and 19.5 trillion yuan, or US$2.5 trillion and US$3 trillion), and the debt owed by state-owned enterprises (another 16 trillion, he said). But with interest of two trillion per year, he thinks things will unravel quickly.

Secondly, that the regime’s officially published inflation rate of 6.2 percent is fabricated. The real inflation rate is 16 percent, according to Lang. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Hollywood Is Just Too Conservative

 

It has long amused me that in a country with 40% of the population considering themselves to be conservatives, we have an entertainment industry so dominated by a political point of view that regards conservatives with contempt.  Andrew Klavan, in his own inimitable fashion, explains how Hollywood distorts reality and presents it to us as entertainment.

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The Sandusky Interview

Last week Don posted a useful guide for aspiring defense attorneys.  I think we need to add another bullet:  Under no circumstances should you allow your client, who is under indictment for child molestation, to give a nationally televised interview in which he all but announces his guilt:

In the course of this creepy interview Sandusky denies being a pedophile, but does admit to showering with young boys while “horsing around” with them.

Also, when Costas asks him if he’s attracted to young boys, Sandusky hems and haws before saying no.  I don’t know about you, but if someone asked me if I were attracted to young boys I wouldn’t discuss how I like young boys but I don’t like like young boys.

You almost get the sense from watching this that Sandusky wants to confess but prevents himself from flat out admitting his guilt.  Just an absolutely disgusting interview, though Costas deserves kudos for allowing Sandusky to hang himself with his responses.

Religious Freedom: The First Freedom

As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government.  I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.  And I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed.

George Washington, March 15, 1790

 

Catholics in this country have long enjoyed complete religious liberty.  The experience of that freedom in this country was one one of the factors that caused Popes to embrace the concept of religious liberty as enshrined in the documents of Vatican II.  Maryland, the Catholic colony, was the first colony to proclaim religious freedom in the New World.

Now that precious liberty that so many Americans have fought and died for down through the centuries is under siege by local and state governments and the Obama administration.  The Bishops of Maryland have spoken out against this evil trend.  Go here to read their 16 page statement. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Was Lincoln a Reluctant Abolitionist?

 

 

Lincoln was first and foremost a politician, and the sincerity of politicians is always subject to question, but it is impossible after examining his speeches and private letters not to be convinced of his deep and abiding hatred of slavery.

His attitude towards slavery was well set forth in the following letter to A.G. Hodges on April 4, 1864: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Now Why Can’t We Have Political Scandals Like This?

Larry the Cat, mouser at No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, is facing calls for his resignation:

British Prime Minister David Cameron is resisting some calls for the resignation of 10 Downing Street’s official mouse catcher Larry, in the wake of the scandalous recent appearance of an uninvited mouse at a recent official government dinner.

Downing Street brought on the 4-year-old Larry last year to help combat a growing rodent problem after TV broadcast cameras caught the image of a “large rat” promenading through the seat of British government.

Like many a professional spinmeister, a spokesman for Cameron’s  government stressed past performance over present-day scandal-mongering. Larry has caught three mice since his services were first employed in February, the spokesman said, and reiterated that he would not be relinquishing his post. The Cameron spokesman also gamely tried to change the subject, noting that “Larry brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Red Skelton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God

Red Skelton and his unforgettable rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Skelton rose out of abject poverty to become one of the great comedians of his time.  His comment about the phrase “under God”  reminds us how deeply this phrase is embedded in American history:

The addition of “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 of course echoes this sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Pledge was altered with that phrase of Lincoln’s specifically in mind.  The Knights of Columbus played an important role in getting the pledge changed, beginning in 1951 to say the Pledge with the phrase “under God” inserted at all Knights of Columbus functions.

Lincoln probably recalled the phrase from George Washington’s use of it in his order to the Continental Army on August 27, 1776 before the battle of Long Island:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

 

 

 

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The Declaration of Independence as Law

Debates sometimes arise as to whether the Declaration of Independence is law. The Declaration isn’t law as a law saying go on green and stop on red is, although it is set forth under the United States Code.  It is much more important than that.  It is one of the essential building blocks of what we as a people believe.  It has been held to be such in numerous decisions of the United States Supreme Court and I cite one of them below: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Try, Try and Try Again Open Thread

We haven’t had an open thread in a while so here one is.  Keep the comments charitable please, and, in the words of a judge at a hearing I attended recently, “Everyone is going to be nice!”.

 

Not One Thin Dime

Well, I see at Mass this morning an insert was placed in the bulletin for the annual appeal for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and therefore it is time for me to renew my annual request that no Catholic contribute one thin dime to this pernicious and wrong-headed begathon.  Despite window dressing efforts at reform, the CCHD is still in the business of handing out money, given by good-hearted Catholics who think they are contributing money to help people down on their luck, to left-wing pressure groups, many of whom espouse causes directly contrary to the teachings of the Church.  Go here to the website of the group Reform CCHD now to get the details.  Here is their summary regarding last year’s grants, after the CCHD had been ostensibly reformed: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

First American Saint

“Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that, knowing the will of God in her regard, she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of a woman.”

Pius XII

The first American citizen to be canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church was born on July 15, 1850 in Saint Angelo Lodigiano, in the Lombardy region of a then disunited Italy.  One of 13 children, Francesca Cabrini was born to her mother, who was then 52 years old, two months premature, and it was touch and go for a while as to whether the new baby would live.  Her health would be precarious all of her life, which, considering what she accomplished, should be a standing rebuke to those of us blessed with good health.

She studied for five years at a school run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart.  Her hearts desire was to be a missionary.  When she applied to enter a convent at age 18, however, she was turned down due to her health.  Nothing daunted, she returned to her home to help her parents on their farm.  A terrible small pox epidemic took the lives of her parents and almost took hers, but she was nursed back to health by her sister Rosa.  Almost miraculously she suffered no disfigurement from the small pox.

Taking a job as a substitute teacher at a nearby village, she taught with such skill and with such obvious love and concern for her pupils, that the rector of her parish, Father Antonio Serrati, who was to become a lifelong friend and advisor of hers, placed her in charge of an orphanage for girls in the parish, the House of Providence.  She was twenty-four at the time and she was presented with no easy task.  The orphanage was known as the House of Providence.  It had been set up by two well-meaning, but incompetent, laywomen, and it was badly organized and visibly failing.  In six years Francesca turned it around, winning the affection of the young girls in the orphanage through the care she showed to them.  While at the orphanage she took vows as a nun, and seven of her girls followed her example and became nuns and helped her run the orphanage.  Here for the first time we see the managerial skill with which Mother Cabrini, as she became universally known, was so gifted. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Veterans Day: John 15:13

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

Epitaph on the Memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima

War is a curious part of the human condition.  It is a summary of the worst that Man is capable of:  violence on a massive scale, cruelty, greed, hatred, and the magnification of every human vice.  Few of us are more “anti-war” than those who have had the misfortune to fight in one and witnessed all the folly, loss and endless pain produced by the inability of men to frequently resolve their differences without resort to the sword.  Yet, in war we also see men rise to the heights of what we are capable of at our best:  self-sacrifice, courage, love and the magnification of every human virtue.  War as the direst of human institutions is to be bitterly regretted, but we must ever pay homage to those who find themselves in this terrible maelstrom and acquit themselves with honor. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Jack Webb Wishes A Belated 236th Happy Birthday to the Corps

 

 

 

 

On November 10, 1775 the Continental Congress passed this resolution authored by John Adams:

“Resolved, That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said battalions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present War with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the Continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.”

The Marines have fought in all our wars and by their conduct have lived up to this description of the Corps:

“No better friend, no worse enemy.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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